Maker Pro News: Should Your Startup Go Open Source? and More

Maker News
Maker Pro News: Should Your Startup Go Open Source? and More

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“The maker movement showed us that rapid prototyping and close community feedback were critical to developing a compelling product.”
–Iota Labs Cofounder Grant Empey

kickstarter dot

Open Source: But What If Someone Just Steals It?

Ubuntu and Android have shown that it’s possible, if sometimes difficult to make open source work commercially. Whether your early stage hardware startup should choose to open its designs, though, is still a fraught question. It’s worked for Adafruit, after all, but Arduino’s high profile trademark dispute is enough to make a maker pro skittish.

Michael Weinberg (@mweinberg2D) is the general counsel for Shapeways and the author of the aptly-titled “It Will Be Awesome If They Don’t Screw It Up,” which explores the intersection between copyright and 3D printing. This week, Weinberg confronted the gnawing question of open source hardware in a candid post that opens with a grim hypothetical: what if someone shared an awesome design under the Creative Commons license, but some company nabbed the design and started selling it without giving proper credit?

Weinberg’s entire post is invaluable reading, but a key point is that it’s worth treading carefully with open hardware, because it’s not afforded all the same legal protections as software. Still, Weinberg is bullish on the future of open source.

“To be fair, the problem described in this post falls squarely into the ‘good problems to have’ category,” he wrote. “After all, the tears only exist because [open source software and Creative Commons have] become so wildly successful that the ethos they embody is spreading well beyond their originally envisioned scope.”

Q&A: Dot Dishes on DIY Launch

The five Berkeley-educated engineers behind Iota Labs are living the dream: the Kickstarter campaign for their elegant push notification system Dot has nearly $100,000 — five times their original goal. How’d they do it, and how could you replicate their success? Cofounder Grant Empey gives us the inside scoop.

Jon Christian: How do you think the maker movement has changed the landscape for hardware startups like Dot?
Grant Empey: The maker movement showed us that rapid prototyping and close community feedback were critical to developing a compelling product. We owe much of our success to early collaboration with makers across the internet in places like Instructables and Hackaday.
JC: Dot blew through its Kickstarter goal of $20,000. What did you do to prepare for the crowdfunding campaign?
GE: We talked to thousands of makers on the internet, prepared a Thunderclap with a reach of 230,000 people to spread the initial word, and reached out to interested journalists months in advance. We only had a budget of $3,000, so bootstrapping our way to launch day was critical.
JC: Do you have any advice for would-be maker pros?
GE: 3D print your product as quickly as possible. Having the product in your hands can help you refine your vision and imagine how others could use it.

electric embellishment

Pros at World Maker Faire

World Maker Faire is just weeks away. Each week, we’re highlighting a few of the maker pros you’ll be able to meet in New York City on October 1–2. Without further ado:

Serial crowdfunder and Make: contributor Natasha Dzurny(@TechnoChicShop) will be selling and demonstrating Electric Embellishments, a system of lovely, illuminated paper flowers that she Kickstarted earlier this year, among other cool projects.

“Maker Faire is the best place to connect with customers, hear their feedback, and have a great time making awesome things together,” Dzurny told us. “Maker Faire is special because it’s a celebration — not just about selling things.”

Wazer (@wazercut) is a desktop waterjet cutter that can carve wood, glass, metal, and — in a bold proof of concept — steak. Stop by their table in New York, where they’ll be showing off their prototype.

And speaking of desktop fabrication, don’t miss Chipsetter (@chipsetter), which says it’s developed the world’s first desktop pick-and-place robot.

Tickets for World Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science are still available! Get yours here!

3DP Camera

Industry Beat: Camera Culture

Form Labs engineer Amos Dudley made waves this week with a fully 3D-printable 35mm camera. Dudley’s design is a thing of beauty: even the lenses are printable, with optically clear resin, and the photographs look… well, good enough for Instagram.

The project is a worthy reminder that even though cameras are old technology compared to the fast moving digital world — historians generally agree that the first successful camera image was captured in 1816, precisely 200 years ago — optics is still a vigorously innovational field, from the largest camera manufacturers to the smallest startups.

But the innovation doesn’t stop with 3D printing. There was the stripped-down E1, a 4K UHD unit that recently shipped following a successful Kickstarter campaign, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, Podo (@PodoLabs) is a tiny remote-controlled camera that’s currently raising funds for its second iteration.

And no topic in photography, of course, is as hot right now as virtual reality-friendly, 360-degree video. The tennis ball-sized Sphericam 2 (@Sphericam), which crowdfunded nearly $500,000 last year, is expected to ship later this year.

Oh, and if you want to dabble your feet in VR dev without picking up an expensive Oculus headset, Google finally released its whimsical Cardboard software for iOS.

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web:

Make: worked with Hackster to launch a cool new feature this week called Community Projects. You can post a project you’re working on, see other people’s projects, and possibly get featured on the Make: blog or in the print magazine. Here’s the signup page!

Also, here’s a terrific roundup of technologies that are changing the fashion industry, from new fabrication techniques to digital meshes of connected devices to the much-hyped blockchain tech that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. (We’ve been thinking about doing a fashion industry feature in the Maker Pro Newsletter; if you have any ideas for topics or companies we should cover, drop us a line at

Speaking of fashion, Cabe Atwell took a look this week at the quarter-sized WaRP7 dev board, which is taking aim at developers of next-gen garments. Also on the Make: blog, Predictable Designs president John Teel listed 12 specsyou’ll want to consider when you’re choosing a microcontroller for a new product.

Former NASA researcher Neil Yorio left the space agency, where he studied how to grow plants in space, to join a company called BIOS that’s working on growing marijuana with LEDs.

Ah yes, remember Adafruit’s ADABOX001? Here’s an unboxing vid.

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DC Denison is the co-editor of The Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection of makers and business. That means hardware startups, new products, and market trends.

DC manages customer stories at Acquia, the digital experience company.

View more articles by DC Denison

Jon Christian is the co-editor of the Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection between makers and business. He's also written for the Boston Globe, WIRED and The Atlantic.

View more articles by Jon Christian


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